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The purpose of this essay is too define and explain Orientalism, and how the term Orientalist applies to Christian missionaries in the Far East.

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Introduction

Europeans used the term Orient to describe the peoples and places of Asia and the Middle East. While widely accepted prior to the late twentieth century, this term has aroused criticism among historians. The purpose of this essay is too define and explain Orientalism, and how the term Orientalist applies to Christian missionaries in the Far East. Two main examples of these missionaries are Matteo Ricci and Francis Xavier who served in China and Japan respectively. Both of these missionaries fall under the definition of Orientalists as defined by Edward Said. Edward Said defines Orientalism in multiple parts; the first of which is the academic1. Academic Orientalism is the study of the Orient for the purpose of understanding and learning. Modern historians view the term Orient to be too vague for an area as large as Asia, but it is still widely used throughout the world. Academic Orientalism attempts to study and understand the Orient from afar. Professors of Chinese language who have never spoken with a Chinese person are a common example of this detached intellectualism. Often in 18th Century Europe the Orientalist would study and judge the Orient based on second hand knowledge and conjecture. This view of understanding the Orient better than the Oriental without living it leads into the second part of Orientalism2. The second part of Orientalism as defined by Said is the justification of subjugation. Europeans believed that due to their better understanding of the history of a culture, and their superior culture they needed to dominate other cultures in order to improve them. ...read more.

Middle

Techniques such as Ricci's Memory Palace interested the Chinese and often spawned further interest into the religion Ricci brought with him.10 Ricci's view of the Chinese is full of contradictions. Many aspects of Chinese culture and government Ricci respected, such as their dress and level of education; the hygiene of the people and the relative order imposed by the Chinese bureaucracy11. At the same time that Ricci praised aspects of Chinese civilization, he abhorred a great deal of Chinese practices. Among these are the corruption rampant throughout China, the worship of heathen religions and their disrespect for human life. Ricci once remarked "This country is full of slaves. 12" Most importantly Ricci despised the widespread homosexuality within China13. There are two main reasons for describing Ricci as an Orientalist. The first is his reason for being in China. Ricci sought to convert all of China to Catholicism. He cared little for the established religions in China and sought to impose his Christian faith upon the peoples of China. Ricci once remarked "...Buddhism violated the very first of the Ten Commandments, and it had not raised moral standards in China despite its two thousand years during which it had been preached.14" Viewing his own faith as superior to any other and being so disdainful of all others, Ricci can be labeled an Orientalist. The second reason for labeling Ricci an Orientalist is his general disdain for all things Chinese. While he may admire certain attributes he generally views everything Western superior; for example his disgust with open prostitution in the streets of major Chinese cities. ...read more.

Conclusion

In addition the basic fear of outsiders made the Chinese distrustful and angry towards the Christian missionaries25. In Japan the eventual consolidation of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate forced all Christians too abandon their faith. The Tokugawa did not want any opposition to their regime and barred any foreigners from entering Japan. Also deep seated religious beliefs and xenophobia as in China caused few too embrace Christianity. Neither Ricci nor Xavier succeeded in their goal of converting the Far East; the task they committed their lives too. One must wonder; if they had taken a more open, non Orientalist approach, would they have been more successful? 1 Said, Edward W. Orientalism. (New York: First Vintage Books Edition, October 1979.), 2. 2 Ibid, 3. 3 Ibid, 33. 4 Ibid, 33-36. 5 Ibid, 83. 6 Manikam, Rajah B. Christianity and the Asian Revolution. (New York: Friendship Press, 1954) 185. 7 Spence, 73-75. 8 Ching, Julia. Confucianism and Christianity. (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1977) 10. 9 Hellyer, Robert. Lecture. "The Jesuits in Asia." Allegheny College. Meadville, Pa. 11 February 2002. 10 Spence, Jonathan D. The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. (New York: Penguin Books, 1985.) 2-5 11 Ibid, 210. 12 Ibid, 219. 13 Ibid, 224. 14 Ibid, 252. 15 Ibid, 208. 16 Ibid, 226. 17 Ibid, 2-5. 18 Ibid, 217. 19 Elisonas, "Christianity and the Daimyo," (Cambridge History of Japan, volume 4, 301-372.) 307-310. 20 Ibid, 311. 21 Ibid, 312. 22 Ibid, 323. 23 Ibid, 309. 24 Spence, 224. 25 Ibid, 57. Knupp 6 ...read more.

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